Judge Arthur Recht passes away 

Authored landmark education decision out of Lincoln County

WHEELING – Senior Status Judge Arthur Recht passed away on October 28, 2018, at Wheeling Hospital after suffering a stroke. He was 80. 

In addition to his nearly two years serving as a Supreme Court Justice, Judge Recht served the people of the First Judicial Circuit (Brooke, Hancock, and Ohio Counties) for more than two decades. 

“One of West Virginia’s legal giants has passed,” said Chief Justice Margaret Workman. “Art Recht was a brilliant judge and a wonderful friend. He left an indelible mark on our state by the standards he shaped in public education for West Virginia children. Serving on the Supreme Court with him was a personal and professional pleasure. I respected, admired, and liked him immensely. My love and prayers are with Karen and the rest of his family.” 

Judge Recht was born in Wheeling in 1938 and received his undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh and his law degree from West Virginia University in 1962. 

He initially was appointed to the First Judicial Circuit in 1981 and as elected in 1982. He left the bench in late 1983 and returned to practicing law in Wheeling. 

In May 1995, then?Governor Gaston Caperton appointed Judge Recht to the West Virginia Supreme Court to fill the unexpired term of retired Justice Richard Neely, which ended in 1996. In 1996, Judge Recht was again appointed to the First Judicial Circuit and was elected in 1998, 2000, and 2008. Chief Justices appointed Judge Recht several times to serve on the Supreme Court when a Justice could not serve on a case. 

Since his retirement on Jan. 31, 2012, Judge Recht has been a senior status judge and was recalled to service several times, including recently. 

Chief Justice Workman appointed him to the First Judicial Circuit on September 5, filling the vacancy left by Judge James Mazzone. 

In 2013, Judge Recht filled in for First Judicial Circuit Judge Martin Gaughan and in 2015 for Judge Mark Karl in the Second Judicial Circuit (Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler Counties). 

He is best known for what has become known as “The Recht Decision.” The case began in 1975 when a Lincoln County parent filed a class-action lawsuit alleging students there were not getting a “thorough and efficient” education as the West Virginia Constitution requires. The case was dismissed in circuit court and appealed to the Supreme Court, which assigned Judge Recht to collect evidence. In 1982 he issued a decision setting education standards and ruling that many West Virginia schools did not meet those standards because of unequal funding. The State Department of Education was charged with implementing the decision, and in the 1984 Pauley v. Bailey case the Supreme Court approved the Education Department’s Master Plan for Public Education. The Circuit Court retained jurisdiction in the case to monitor progress until January 2003 when Judge Recht closed the case and relinquished jurisdiction. In the intervening years the state school aid formula was modified to provide more equal funding and hundreds of millions of dollars was spent on new schools, facilities, curriculum, and standards. 

Judge Recht served as a member of the Governor's Committee on Selection of Judicial Candidates from Circuit Court from 1990-95, chairman of the State Bar's Committee on Legal Ethics from 1985-91 and president of the Judicial Association from 2002-03. For many years he was a member of the Mass Litigation Panel and as a senior status judge continued for several years to preside over FELA Asbestos Litigation and the Tobacco Litigation. 

He received the 2008 Judge of the Year Award from the West Virginia Association of Justice and received the Distinguished West Virginian Award in 1997. 

Kepner Funeral Home in Wheeling is in charge of the funeral arrangements. Judge Recht leaves behind his wife Karen, and two adult sons.